I grew up in Maine, but had to get the heck out once I graduated. After college, I moved to Chicago for work, and I had a good job. Like most people, I realized that Maine isn’t such a bad place when I was away. When the company went out of business two years ago, I came home to be closer to family and friends. Well, a lot of my friends have moved away, my sister moved a few months after I came back, and my parents split up, so that old family feeling just isn’t here anymore. I’ve got a job, not a great one, but I’m making ends meet. It’s been kind of hard making new friends in such a small town, and I’m getting the urge to move back to Chicago, or maybe someplace else, but I know it won’t be easy wherever I go. Maine feels like my home, but maybe there’s something better out there. Should I stay here and try to rebuild my life? Or should I pack my bags and get out of Dodge?
— Man On The Move
You know what I always say: 99.9 percent of life decisions are reversible (the having a kid part kind of isn’t, but some people definitely backpedal after the fact). When else in your life will you be able to just pack up and go somewhere else? Sounds like you are single, sans mortgage and not leaving anything amazing in terms of a job front.
Go west, young man. Actually, go anywhere. Many people I know who were in this position you are now in and didn’t take the opportunity are kicking themselves now since with three kids, a full-time job and a mortgage they are staying put at least the next several years. You can always come back and, other than the names of a few businesses changing around and a bit of new gossip, you won’t be missing too much.
I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for most of my life. I’ve got good neighbors. They keep to themselves, but are helpful if I have a need for something, and I’ve always returned the favor. Well, I heard from a friend who works in the town office that they haven’t kept up with the property taxes for years. I’m worried that they might lose their house, and I don’t want to see that happen. I do alright, and I’d like to help, but they are proud folks. I’m afraid I might embarrass them, let alone try to explain how I found out they’re in a tough spot. How can I help them without making them feel bad?
— Like a Good Neighbor
So tax information, last I checked, is available in town reports. I know because I worked with some kids in a school once to show them how to read a town report and they found the taxes section. “Hey, Pete, your dad owes $8,450 to the town,” one kid yelled. Who knew a civics lesson with fourth-graders would take that turn?
Here’s the thing about money and friendship: it doesn’t mix. Whatever you give them can’t be a loan; you have to treat it like a gift to them that is given unconditionally and without strings. If you can afford to give them a few grand to pay their property taxes, you are a generous person, and on behalf of everyone reading this, thank you for existing.
The question may be do you think they’d be receptive to an anonymous gift versus knowing their neighbor (i.e. you) wrote them a check? It may be worth going through an agency, like the Island Housing Trust or some nonprofit like them to act as a sort of fiscal agent on your behalf (I have no idea if they do this but they could point you in a direction I’m sure.)
You may decide the check should come from you. Tell them just like you told me, you accidentally found out this information, that you are in the financial position to help and that you’d love them to stay as your neighbors.
After doing either of these, the ball is in their court and, like any adults, they can refuse a gift and you’ll have to look for other ways to help them out for as long as they remain your neighbors… or they can accept it and you’ll have to go on treating them as you always have expecting them to do the same.
My boyfriend and I just decided to try to have a baby. We’re both excited about bringing new life into the world, and we think we’re finally ready financially and emotionally. We aren’t married, and we don’t want to get married. My parents and my boyfriend’s parents have split up. We’ve seen friends get married and divorced. Weddings and marriages are way more stressful than helpful.
The only problem is that my grandparents are seriously religious. If we have a baby together, they will be mad, I’m sure. They don’t even know that we live together. They live in South Carolina, and I only see them every couple of years, so it’s been easy to keep them from finding out about us.
But when we have a baby, they’ll know, and I’m worried that they’ll pressure us to get married, or maybe even disown us. Help!
— Baby Maybe
Congratulations on making an important decision. I will say you never know how people are going to react to any news, no matter how well you know them. Ask anyone who has ever dropped a truth bomb on someone (“Mom, I’m gay,” “Dad, I’m joining the circus,” etc.). Your grandparents may react better than you think, especially if you give them the reasoned approach you just explained here. As Betty White said, “I really don’t care with whom you sleep. I just care what kind of a decent human being you are.” And I’m betting that lady is older than your grandparents!
That said, they also have the right to feel whatever they are going to feel about your life decisions. It’s your life and you only get one shot at it so if these people are far away and decide not to talk to you when you do something you want desperately to do, it’s their loss. They may come to realize it down the road their mistake and make amends. Just keep things classy on your end and you’ll have no regrets.
I will say if you decide not to get married, you and your boyfriend should draw up some kind of paperwork. As an adult, you know statistically your marriage is going to end when 1) one of you wants a divorce or 2) when one of you dies. Make sure legal stuff is in order (this seemed useful for framing the discussion: http://family.findlaw.com/living-together/tips-for-unmarried-parents-who-want-to-raise-children-together.html) for case number 1 and for case number 2, get life insurance and a living revokable trust for that baby at the very least (though seeing a fee only financial planner wouldn’t hurt.) Life will very soon no longer just be about you, so planning is now required.